The story of Vee’s Produce began over 30 years ago. Scott Vee was working as a restaurant manager buying produce and decided to transition into a job buying a full line of vegetables. He had an important realization: Why not start his own produce distribution company instead of working for someone else? In 1990, he did just that and opened Vee’s Produce, distributing solely onions.
Later, Scott’s son Jason Vee went into the Marine Corps out of high school and then to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He almost went into engineering but decided a degree in economics made more sense and would allow him to work for the family business.
Vee’s has seen many changes over the years, but there’s one thing that’s always been constant: they put their customers first.
“Years ago, we spent a lot of time finding deals and honey holes that not many people knew about to save costs,” Jason explains. “Lately, we have found the best way to provide value is by mapping out year-round supply with the highest quality product.”
Fast forward 30 years and Brown Bag Potatoes is born – offering an eco-friendly alternative to plastic bags. So, why did Vee’s decide to branch out into spuds? In particular, because of a man named John Alstrup. When John started at Vee’s seven years ago, he brought with him a wealth of potato knowledge. At one point, John had owned a produce business in Big Lake, Minnesota, packaging onions and potatoes. He learned early on just how important accuracy and quality are in maintaining a successful business.
The first retailer interested in paper-packaged potatoes was Minnesota-based grocery chain Lunds & Byerly’s. They asked John about a paper-sourced bag but there was just one problem, it didn’t exist yet. John recognized the important opportunity. Wanting to help L&B find what they were searching for, John expressed to Jason that sustainable packaging is where the market was heading. And so began Vee’s journey of creating Earth-friendly packaging – meeting their customers’ demand for sustainable products. It’s like no other bag on the market.
Buyers know that we provide a service. A service of listening to their needs and doing our best to provide for them.-Jason vee, Vee’s Produce
With success also comes hard work and sometimes setbacks. One particular issue that occurred was around Thanksgiving at the L&B stores, when the bags started to fall apart, due to the glue not adequately holding. BBP was quick to respond and with the help of their paper manufacturer and troubleshooting, the problem was corrected and the bags were improved upon yet again.
Not many other companies can take credit for putting this much effort into spearheading sustainable packaging, especially in produce. This kind of forward-thinking helps resolve issues and also solidifies BBP’s willingness to put in the extra effort in order to find new ideas for customers.
According to Jason, “The industry is a puzzle. We are as much a logistics company as we are a produce company. Getting new customers can be tough so we want to maintain our customers by making it easy for them.”
With this, BBP strives to not only make life easier for its buyers but to also expand its own research and knowledge and lead the industry by example.
Keeping a level head and staying calm when problems arise is a key component in building trusting relationships with buyers. Being willing to do the hard work, continually showing up for the customer, and looking at every single aspect and angle of a challenge is part of what makes BBP stand out from the rest.
Honesty, integrity and complete transparency results in forward-thinking solutions. For buyers seeking innovative ideas in an industry where “new to market” isn’t exactly common – Brown Bag Potatoes is the perfect choice.
“Buyers know that we provide a service,” Jason says. “A service of listening to their needs and doing our best to provide for them.”